With the disappointing midterms, Republicans have lost a major battle in the fight to restore American greatness. We are now rapidly approaching the final standoff between the flailing Republican Party and the reenergized Democratic Party. The Democrats survived what should have been a political bloodbath in 2022, and the Right seems to be in the most vulnerable position since the 1960s, when Republicans were essentially a permanent minority in Washington.
It could happen again. Whether the GOP returns to minority status in two years will depend on the party determines who will be its nominee in the next presidential election. While many on the Right assume it will be Donald J. Trump, there are other candidates in the offing.
The obvious challenger is the wildly popular Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, whose leadership, policies, and personnel choices designed to make Florida the freest state in the union speak for themselves as to why he’d be a worthy successor to the Trump movement. Yet, in classic GOP fashion, the party appears unhappy with having merely two contenders to lead the collapsing party into what could be its final battle as a viable national political party.
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former secretary of state and a man with almost Caesar-like ambitions with a last name to match those pretensions, will likely enter the fray in 2024. So, too, will former Vice President Mike Pence. There is much talk that the Trump Administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, may also enter the raace.
Beyond these Trump Administration veterans is a cadre of other names who stand no real chance at success in 2024. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) yearns to fulfill what he believes is his destiny by becoming the steward of the party of Lincoln in 2024. The controversial South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, is rumored to be considering a run as well.
Hell, maybe even “Low Energy” Jeb Bush appears for an encore, just to confirm that he still doesn’t have it. Let’s add Kanye West to the lineup too, just to spice things up a bit!
For those keeping count, we are already up to seven possible known, serious (relatively speaking) candidates—including Trump and DeSantis. Thus, the GOP’s circular firing squad is dutifully forming two years before the election even begins.
Seventeen major Republicans ran for president in 2016. That fight almost destroyed the party. It is incumbent upon Republican Party leadership to recognize that another brutally divided primary only serves the Democrats. The RNC would do well to take a page from the Democrats’ playbook and change the rules going into 2024 to prevent a multi-sided civil war in the primary.
There really are only two true contenders for the GOP nomination. Both, blessedly, do not share the yearning to be loved by the establishment of either party.
In both Trump and DeSantis, the GOP has two strong leaders who can protect the MAGA movement and ensure it cannot simply be coopted the way that the Tea Party was by the establishment. The RNC should, therefore, limit the primary in 2024 to just two debates and should place only the top-two Republican candidates who are most popular—in this case, Trump and DeSantis—and simply inform the others they don’t get to run. We are, after all, a party and not a country. The party decides who gets to run and how. The voters then vote on the chosen candidates.
Now, a Trump-DeSantis fight won’t be pretty. But it could at least be better managed by the two candidates, their staffs, and the RNC than a multi-sided cage match in which all the contenders inadvertently give the media and their Democratic Party allies more ammunition to use on the eventual nominee in the general election. This, by the way, is precisely what happened in 2012, when Barack Obama’s campaign adopted Newt Gingrich’s talking points against Mitt Romney.
A two-sided fight would be easier for the party to move on from once the general election gets going.
Even if the Democrats end up primarying Biden in 2024, you can be assured that their process will be far more orderly (and far less open) than the Republican version. It will be akin to an old Stalinist show trial: the outcome already determined by those behind the scenes, and the rest merely political theater to help justify the result in the minds of the public. Regardless, the lack of a similar bloodbath on the Left will likely help to keep the Democratic voters in line and poised to resist the Republican nominee.
Whatever the GOP decides, though, it must ensure that there is no repeat of the primary debacles of 2012 and 2016. Men like Pompeo or Pence—let alone Cruz—though they have done much for the party, stand no chance at winning the nomination in 2024—unless Trump and DeSantis are out of the running. But at least one of them will be running. Such an internecine spectacle would only weaken the GOP and probably help Joe Biden (and his handlers) sleepwalk their way into another term in the White House—and would jeopardize the GOP’s chances at being a majority party for a generation.